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Strawberry Layer Cake
Fluffy layers of real strawberry cake with strawberry jam and creamy Ermine frosting.
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Buttermilk Bundt Cake: Tender, plush buttermilk cake with a vanilla bean glaze
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From the Archives:
Salted Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake: Swap the colors in this Fall buttercream wreath design to fit all season.
Strawberry Layer Cake
When the Farmer’s Market is overflowing with tiny baskets and large flats of ruby-colored berries, then you know it’s time to make this Strawberry Layer Cake. The fluffy pink layers are made with real strawberries and spread with strawberry preserves for an ever more intense, sweet, and slightly tart bite. Creamy, vanilla-spiked Ermine frosting brings it all together in this summer celebration cake.
I must emphasize the real strawberries used in this cake. Often strawberry cake recipes call for boxed strawberry jello or instant strawberry pudding, but we will keep those on the store shelves where they belong. Instead, this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of an abundance of summer berries.
What is Ermine Frosting?
This vintage frosting is silky and custard-like but made without eggs. It is similar in taste and texture as meringue-based buttercreams and far less sweet than American-style buttercream.
Sometimes known as “heritage,” “cooked-flour,” or “boiled,” frosting, it starts with cooking flour on the stove to eliminate its starchy flavor and activate its thickening properties. The two-part process combines the cooked and cooled flour/milk/sugar roux with softened butter to create the smooth and dreamy frosting.
Tips and Troubleshooting for Ermine Frosting:
The key to smooth Ermine frosting is temperature control. The base and butter should both be room temperature when whipped together. Add vanilla and salt to season the buttercream before slathering it on this Strawberry Layer Cake. For best results, use right after mixing.
If the frosting feels heavy and thick then it is likely too cold and has not had enough time to mix. It should be weightless and silky, but not greasy. You may gently warm the frosting using a double-boiler or by microwaving a very small amount and mixing it back in until smooth and spreadable.
If the frosting is too soft to spread and slips off the cake, then it is likely too warm. Try placing the frosting in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, then re-mixing until smooth and spreadable.
Let’s talk about strawberries
Even when strawberries are at their peak ripeness, reducing the puréed fruit concentrates their flavor. Cook the puréed strawberries over low heat until they become thick and jammy. Make sure to cool the reduced purée before adding it to your cake batter.
Can I use Frozen Strawberries?
Frozen strawberries may also work, but they have a tendency to hold onto more water. It might take a bit more time to reduce the liquid down until thick. Sweeten to taste.
A note on freeze-dried fruit:
A lot of modern recipes for strawberry cake and frosting contain ground freeze-dried strawberries. While using freeze-dried fruit undoubtedly adds intense berry flavor, they can be incredibly hard to source outside of the US. Even here in Canada, they are difficult to find and come with a hefty price tag. I wanted to make this cake recipe accessible for all, so I opted out of using freeze-dried strawberries.
Beautiful layer cakes are sometimes reserved for special occasions, so I understand if you want to splurge or go all-out with the strawberry flavor. Try adding ground freeze-dried strawberries to the cake batter itself and/or to the buttercream for a fruit-forward frosting. Bonus? Freeze-dried fruit will eliminate the need for food coloring as it is naturally a very vibrant pink.
Strawberry Layer Cake
Makes (1) three layer, 8-inch round cake
Serves 12 to 15
2 cups (300 g) ripe strawberries, halved
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Place all of the ingredients in a small food processor and process until smooth.
Pour the purée into a small or medium saucepan and place over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Lower the heat to low and cook, occasionally stirring, until the purée reduces down to about ¾ cup (180 ml). The purée will become thick and jammy. It will take 30 to 60 minutes to reduce over low heat.
Allow the purée to cool before using in the cake.
3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 cup (225 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
¾ cup(180 ml) reduced Strawberry Purée
Pink gel food coloring (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three, 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time allowing each to combine before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add about half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stream in the milk, followed by the strawberry purée and a few drops of food coloring, and mix until the liquids are absorbed. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix on low speed no more than 30 seconds.
Evenly distribute the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing them from their pans. Allow the cakes to cool completely before filling and frosting.
½ cup (63 g) all-purpose flour
2 cups (480 ml) whole milk
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk the milk into the flour until smooth. Heat the mixture, while whisking slowly but constantly, over medium heat until it reaches a thick, pudding-like consistency, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and salt until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a heat-safe container or shallow bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (in the refrigerator to speed things up). It should be the same temperature as the softened butter before moving on to the next step.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Begin adding in the cooled flour mixture, a couple tablespoons at a time, until fully incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Switch to the whisk attachment and gradually increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the frosting together until light and fluffy, 2 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla extract. Continue to mix on low speed for a few additional minutes to smooth it out. When done, the frosting should feel light on the tongue but smooth and silky when spread over the top of a cake.
½ cup (120 ml) strawberry jam
6 whole strawberries
Pink gel food coloring
Sugar pearls for sprinkling
Reserve about ¾ cup of the frosting and set aside. Tint the remaining frosting pink, or the color of your choice. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip with some of the pink frosting and set aside.
Once the cakes have completely cooled, trim the tops with a serrated knife until flat, if necessary. Place the bottom layer of cake on a cake board, serving dish, or rotating cake stand. Pipe a ring of frosting around the top edge of the cake. Fill the ring with about ½ cup of frosting and spread it out with an offset spatula. While spreading the frosting, gently press down with the spatula (or the back of a spoon) in the center to create a shallow “bowl” of frosting, the edges matching up with the piped frosting “dam” around the edges.
Fill the middle of the frosting with ¼ cup strawberry jam and spread until smooth. Top the filling with a second layer of cake and repeat. Flip the final layer of cake upside down and place on top of the cake. Gently press down to secure and make sure the sides of the cake are straight.
Fill in any gaps between the layers with frosting. It is very important that none of the strawberry jam squeezes out between the layers of cake.
Crumb coat the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Smoothly frost the cake with the remaining frosting. To finish, gently touch the tip of the offset spatula to the side of the cake (near the bottom). As you spin the cake stand, gradually move the spatula up the side of the cake to create the wavey texture. Clean off the top of the cake by gently pulling the excess frosting around the edges towards the center of the cake with a small offset spatula.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a French Star Tip with the reserved plain buttercream. Pipe star “kisses” around the top edge of the frosted cake. Place a cut strawberry on each dollop and finish with a sprinkle of sugar pearls.
Serving and Storage
Store leftover cake in the refrigerator in a cake box wrapped in plastic wrap. If you do not have a box, press a piece of plastic wrap directly to the cut sides of the cake and gently drape it over the frosting.
Serve the cake at room temperature. Make sure to give it ample time out of the refrigerator to ensure that the frosting is soft and silky when served.
The cake is best eaten within 3 days.